Make Things Worse

 

“An actor is looking for conflict. Conflict is what creates drama… I am always surprised at how actors try to iron out the conflict that may lurk beneath the surface of the scene, flattening it out instead of heightening it… We are trained as children that the most admirable conduct is that which causes the least trouble, so most of of spend our lives avoiding the conflicts of which drama is made.”

-Michael Shurtleff, “Auditions”

 

I get knocked for this in improv ALL THE TIME. I’m a fixer. Are we lost? I have a map. Is someone sad? I have their favorite cake. Are the keys missing? I’ve got a spare set.

I rip all the drama out of the scene. In my urge to be polite and nice and kind and friendly (aka likable) I forget this truth- drama is conflict. Not always with each other, no one really wants to watch fight scene after fight scene. And arguing is too easy. But there has to be conflict somewhere. Something needs to go badly, something has to go wrong, someone has to be hurt or scared or SOMETHING. That’s not just where drama comes from, it’s also where humor comes from. More

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Bryan Cranston on Auditioning

 

The video below struck a cord with me because it answers something that been bothering me over the last few months. I’ve done more auditions since January than I have the entire rest of my life put together (not that it’s a lot by acting standards). This has brought to the forefront an issue I’d noticed before but when auditions are months apart it’s easier to shove the thought away and forget about it than when you have one a week for several weeks in a row.

My issue is exactly what Brian deals with- the attitude to have about an audition. I have two defaults that I swing between, forcing myself into one or the other.

  1. I don’t care if I get in, this audition doesn’t matter. It’s just practice.
  2. I want this role/job/etc SO BAD and I have to convince them to give it to me.

More

Starting Again

 

I think I’m in the mood to blog again.

I think I’ve thought about it too much. I tried so hard to follow all the advice about posting regularly and finding a theme and getting a niche- blah blah blah- in doing it right, that I took every bit of me out. OK, not every bit. Still, while the words may have sometimes been mine the style and the method were not.

That was fine when I was writing up a storm and trying to get my 1,000,000 words. I had things to post all the time in a race to get my word count up. When that ended I was left with no idea what to put on here.

Actually, when that ended I basically quit writing for awhile. I kept up my Morning Pages, my journal stayed close at hand, I did some editing, but I didn’t write the way I had been. Even before the challenge. Even now I’m just slipping back into the discipline of writing even when I don’t want to do it. It’s hard. Without an outside driving force to push me along I find myself drifting. Even now I’m doing this to avoid working on my spec script. I’ve been planning to start posting here again for awhile but only actually wrote this when I was forced into a corner to avoid my script.

The way I fight the script is terrible. As if it is my enemy. I’ve had several well-meaning people suggest that if I like writing novels and short stories, and they are much easier for me (which they are- I can sit down and knock out a novel for three hours with little difficulty), that perhaps that’s a sign that I should focus on being a novelist. Which is an utterly logical supposition.

Just, it’s not accurate. Even if it was, I want to write movies and TV shows. That has always been my goal but, in my habit of not admitting what I want in case I can’t have it, I took that desire and used it to write everything except movies and TV shows. If I didn’t write them then I couldn’t be rejected so I could hold onto my hope. Stupid, but there is it.

Still, not accurate. My writing style is much more suited to screenplay format than it is novels. I like things happening and people talking. I do not like description, back story, long narration, an abundance of details, lots of introspection, emotional angst, or really anything that slows down the pace of people doing things. My personality is better suited to writing screenplays. I’ve got so many ideas I’ll never get to them all even if I never have another one. In basically all genres. Piles of ideas that I am genuinely excited about.

Writing a quality script can and does take time, I’m not knocking it, but it’s not nearly as long as a novel. One story I have in mind is set in near future, a scifi piece. I’m saying a script will take less than a year, including editing and polishing. A novel to cover the same territory? I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing at least two, easily more. Especially since my stuff requires heavy editing. So the idea of being able to get more done, more stories out there, is appealing.

I’m stuck because I haven’t done it before. My first novel didn’t happen for years, I started and quit a pile of them before I finally forced myself to finish one. Which felt like the hardest thing. But when it was over (it was a NaNo novel) I sat back and realized that it really hadn’t been that hard. I mean, it was. In a way. Yet most of the trouble was in my head. It wasn’t finding time, it wasn’t plot points or running out of ideas. I thought it was, at the time. But it was actually not believing it was possible. And as soon as that barrier was gone I was free to write more. I’ve written three additional novels (all 70,000 – 110,000 words) and started a couple of others.

That’s where I’m at with scripts. I’ve started a lot of them in the past. I have a ton of ideas. I keep picking up story books and outline books and books on how to format. I read blogs and emails lists. I do everything except actually finish a damn script. The sad part is that I know. I know that if I finish one the next one will be easier. I know that it’s Resistance in my head and it’s self-protecting and it’s an unwillingness to be vulnerable (in the sense of allowing myself to fail and write a sucky script). I know all that and yet I still hold the pen and stare at the page and write ten words in an hour.

But I’m not stopping. This script is getting done come hell or high water.

Oh yeahs, the blog. I have decided to make it whatever I want it to be and if no one reads it that’s OK. A place to talk about projects I’ve got in the works, creativity in general, and also my life as I want. No more trying to follow a formula or convince people to click on my posts or making sure all my posts fit my niche audience. I’m going to write out things that interest me and put them here in case they interest someone else. That’s all. And if they don’t it’s OK. And if they do, that’s OK too.

 

Recap: Week 39

2013-2014 Writing

Week 39

There are changes in the format, and the purpose of this. See the post HERE for the reason.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 1,755
  • MPs 5,460
  • Letters 1,321
  • Total 8,536
  • YTD 586,269

Recap: Week 38

2013-2014 Writing

Week 38

There are changes in the format, and the purpose of this. See the post HERE for the reason.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 1,095
  • MPs 5,040
  • Letters 550
  • Avon 3,030
  • Blog 469
  • Total 10,184
  • YTD 577,733

 

Recap: FAILED

My quest to write 1,000,000 words in a year is over.

I’ve not updated my blog in two weeks because I didn’t want to admit it, even to myself, but today I finally faced the facts. I am too far behind.

The pace I was writing in Nov was doable, and had I done that from the start I would have easily made it. However, the first three or four months I consistently did not make weekly goals. Part of it was the fact that it didn’t feel real, part of it was the very difficult transition to writing a significant amount every day. It was a hard adjustment.

Now, however, as much as I am screaming at myself to not give up, I can’t do it. To hit my goal at this point I’d have to write about 4,800 words a day. Every day. Until mid-March. On top of a full time job, a (hopefully) part time job, class, and life. While I think that’s a reasonable word count for a professional writer it is not for me if I’m working 40-60 hours a week. Especially with no break days.

This experiment, failed as it is, has taught me so much about writing and, more specifically, myself as a writer.

  • I do better with multiple projects at once, that I can switch between.
  • My productivity is uneven. I get more words done in four days of writing with three off than I do if I write every day.
  • Journaling/morning pages are exempt from that rule, and something I need to do every day. For my mental health if no other reason.
  • I am capable of turning out large numbers of words in a day, that the hurtles are mental only. That 1,100-1,300 words in 30 minutes is a reasonable goal, and that I can do that about 4-6 times in a row before there is a noticeable slump in my speed. That there’s no point going on after that, it’s best to leave and come back in a few hours. Do another 4-6 sets then.
  • I work better out in a coffee shop or even a fast food joint than I do at home. I do NOT work well on planes/buses/etc.
  • Music is useful for focusing, but if it’s Top 40 stuff I’ll end up singing along instead of writing. Best bet is either film scores or heavy rock.
  • I write fiction best in the late morning, afternoon, or evening. Early to mid-mornings and late nights are better for non-fiction.
  • Reading before I write is hit or miss. It might inspire me, but it also might depress me with the difference in quality. Votes still out on that one. However, reading the same short piece (one by Anne Lamott) about writing before each session is grounding and puts me in the mood to write.
  • My writing style is a reflection of what drove me to embrace improv. I enjoy chasing the unknown. More experiments with plotting have left me just as frustrated as before. I want to chase the story. Maybe I have an end scene in mind, or at least a theme, but the actual events are best found in the moment.
  • I enjoy both writing and editing. I’ve found that most people claim it’s only possible to like one of them but I truly look forward to both. I love creating stories, and I love tightening what I’ve written. I do find editing to be more overwhelming and thus more difficult to work on for long lengths of time.

So the project has been very useful. I may try it again one day. Maybe. But for now it is over. I will keep posting my word counts every week, just not against where I should be. Both for the accountability and for the knowledge of the ground I am covering. I want to keep tracking my word counts, I just know they aren’t going to hit 1,000,000 this year.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me, and hopefully big things will be coming soon! I am going to be putting more time into editing my novel Raising Trouble, since I won’t feel guilty for not using that time to work on my goal. And I’m going to finish my current novel, Avon, pretty soon. Also, I’m getting back into fan fiction as a way to get some feedback and do some shorter pieces. When I get something new up I’ll put a link on here.

Lots of changes, and yet my focus is the same. Writing, acting, creating. Failing forward. Which this failure has been.

Recap: Week 37

One Million Words Challenge

Week 37

Low week. Which is not great news on the challenge front.

However, I’m going to cut myself a little slack. I finally, finally, broke down and went to the clinic on Friday afternoon. That’s a big deal for me. Even when I had insurance I normally took the “tough it out and it’ll heal on it’s own” route. Without insurance I avoid doctors at all costs. That’s what Google and ingenuity are for. However, I finally gave in this time. I just couldn’t function any more, and nothing was helping.

It was just a sinus infection. However, she said it was a nasty one, in deep, and added, “You’re in a lot of pain, aren’t you?” To which I nodded and coughed everywhere.

Five days of antibiotics later and I feel like a human again. I mean, I’ve felt HORRIBLE for two weeks but I’ve been sick longer than that. I just didn’t realize it. Fifteen doses of antibiotics and I can breath easily again. Through my nose! I sleep, instead of waking up exhausted in the morning. My nose bleeds have stopped. My head doesn’t throb all afternoon and evening every day. Walking to work doesn’t leave me so tired that the idea of working is overwhelming.

Thing is, it kinda snuck up on me. I didn’t know I felt so bad. I mean, the past two weeks, sure. But looking back it’s been at least two before that, maybe longer, that I’ve been sick. And I didn’t notice. A little more every day until finally my body gave up and refused to pretend any more.

So, while I got further behind on my word counts, something I can ill afford at this point, I was also truly miserable. Today I mailed packages at the post office (then walked, rather than bus, the mile and a half home. For fun) and picked-up a table at the SA (drug it home on hand trucks) and I cleaned my room and I put up/decorated the Christmas tree and I wrote several thousand words on my novel (planning more later tonight), and I got a library card, and more besides that. Not exaggerating here- if you’d told me a week ago that I needed to do all that in one day I would have cried. And halfway through I would have slumped in a corner and berated myself for being so weak.

I am so thankful that I live in a time and a place where a $8 bottle of pills can make such a rapid and dramatic improvement.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 1,149
  • MPs 6,804
  • Letters 180
  • Avon 7,267
  • Total 15,400
  • YTD 567,549
  • Where I should be 709,660

Recap: Week 36

One Million Words Challenge

Week 36

This week was an overall bad week, but it ended on a great note. Bad, because I barely wrote. And when I say that I did still make a gain, I got out of the hole a little. Just not much. Not enough to catch up on time. It is good to remind myself that a few months ago just breaking even was a big win. However, it’s also good to remind myself that, due to letting myself get so far behind, that isn’t going to cut it.

I have to write regardless of what’s going on. Having said that- I’ve been sick. I’ve felt horrible, completely drained and just wanting to sleep. Coughing hard enough that my roommates can hear me through the walls. Plus I went onto regular hours at Target so I’m getting used to having a job again and writing around that has been difficult. And it’s not helping how tired I feel. It was far too easy this week to curl up and watch Netflix while dozing instead of writing.

However, there was a bright spot at the end. Monday I, for the first time ever, had a 10,000+ word day! In fact, it ended up being 11,000+ when it was all said and done. Which when you look at the numbers below will let you see how weak the rest of the days were.

Still! I did it. It as more a mental block than anything. I’m capable of doing it, I kept saying I was going to, but never actually making it. And I hate to say this because it only reveals how easily I could have kept up but- it really wasn’t that hard. Time consuming, sure. I wrote a total of five and a half hours. I did nine, thirty minute blocks on Avon and then about an hour to hand write my MPs and journal (baby journal entry). Not including the very much needed breaks. But not hard. Not physically difficult, not torturous. It just took a commitment to sitting still and doing it.

That’s what it comes back to- doing it. Just sitting down and writing. Even when I’m sick. Even when I’m tired. Even when I have nothing to say. That’s been one thing that improv has done to help my writing more than any other thing. It has taught me to keep going in the face of having no idea where I’m headed. I can’t stop in a scene and try to figure it out. There is an audience watching. I have to go on as if I know exactly where things are headed, as if I have secret knowledge.

It’s the same with writing. If I want high word counts, if you want high word counts, the secret is to write. Ha! There it is. I’m a genius. Really though, just write even when there is no story coming out. It will show up. Humans are made to tell stories, to make connections, to seek and find patterns. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just written words that technically went together but I had no point for that ended up being vital to the story. By that I mean, don’t write random words like “dog hard noise love lion” (unless that’s your thing (And I think I can find a story in that, actually)). But just write words that would normally do together “She saw a tree. It was green. It was tall”. Does it sound like a preschool book? Yeah. But you have no idea what it will lead to, and there is always editing later if it doesn’t go anywhere.

Anne Lamott says it better than I can-

The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, “Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,” you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper, because there may be some thing great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go–but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 375
  • MPs 6,804
  • Blog 747
  • Avon 18,750
  • Total 26,676
  • YTD 552,149
  • Where I should be 690,480

Recap: Week 35

One Million Words Challenge

Week 35

This week I crossed the halfway mark. Since the middle of March I have written over a half million words. That’s… yeah.

It’s been hard. Really, really hard. I toy so often with the idea of quitting. Yet this is something I truly want to do. It’s not impossible, it’s only insane.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 646
  • MPs 6,804
  • Letters 1,660
  • Blog 536
  • Avon 19,856
  • Total 29,505
  • YTD 525,473
  • Where I should be 671,300

Recap: Week 34

One Million Words Challenge

Week 34

My first 30,000+ week! I have found a rhythm, writing on my new novel, and the words are coming easily. Not that they were hard before, per say, but for some reason I didn’t want to do it. NaNo has helped as much as I thought it would. If I can keep this pace up I will be able to catch up to where I need to be by the time March gets here. Something I was beginning to wonder if I could do.

This proves that I can. Now I just have to do it.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 1,182
  • MPs 6,804
  • Letters 1,061
  • Blog 823
  • Avon 23,468
  • Total 33,338
  • YTD 495,971
  • Where I should be 652,120

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